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Obama and Clinton 'Unite for Change'

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton made up in public yesterday. Mr. Obama, of course, is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Mrs. Clinton has taken the role of supporter and cheerleader now, a job made all the more critical because of the millions of votes that she won in primary contests this year and because of the intense loyalty many of her supporters still show for her. Yesterday, Senators Obama and Clinton held their first joint rally to promote party unity in a small town called Unity, New Hampshire. NPR's Don Gonyea was there.

DON GONYEA: Here's what it sounds like when two people who worked their hardest trying to bury one another for the past year suddenly try to get beyond the fight and show that they can work together. It was a steaming, hot summer day in a place chosen both for its name, Unity, and the fact that Obama and Clinton fought to a draw in this town in this year's New Hampshire primary.

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): We have gone toe to toe in this hard-fought primary, but today, and every day going forward, we stand shoulder to shoulder for the ideals we share.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): It's fitting that we meet in a place called Unity, because the truth is that's the only way we can solve the challenges facing this country.

Senator CLINTON: I was honored to be in this race with Barack, and I am proud that we had a spirited dialogue.

(Soundbite of crowd laughter)

Senator CLINTON: That was the nicest way I could think of phrasing it.

(Soundbite of crowd laughter)

Senator OBAMA: For 16 months, Senator Clinton and I have shared the stage as rivals for the nomination. But today I could not be happier and more honored and more moved that we're sharing this stage as allies to bring about the fundamental changes that this country so desperately needs.

GONYEA: And the crowd? Well, if you went by the rhythmic chanting, sometimes it was hard to tell who the rally was for.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama! Hillary! Hillary!")

Senator CLINTON: You know.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Hillary! Hillary!")

Senator CLINTON: You know.

(Soundbite of crowd chanting "Hillary! Hillary!")

GONYEA: Amidst all of the day's mutual praise, Senator Clinton also acknowledged that some of her supporters, upset or angry over the outcome of the Democratic primaries, are now thinking of voting for John McCain. She said she strongly urges them to reconsider. Thousands turned out for yesterday's rally to witness the coming together of these two campaigns. There were skeptics, like Clinton voter Carol Stone Oaks(ph).

Ms. CAROL STONE OAKS (Hillary Clinton Supporter): Unity shmunity. There's no evidence of any unity. There's evidence of Barack Obama supporters all over the place. There's no evidence that any Hillary Clinton supporters were brought in here to unify with this mesmerized crowd.

GONYEA: But that was a minority view on this day. More typical was 60-year-old Janet O'Brien(ph). She wore a straw hat for shade with a Hillary button affixed prominently above the brim.

Ms. JANET O'BRIEN (Hillary Clinton Supporter): I think it will be unity. I think we'll be OK by the end of the day. When you actually get in that voting booth, and you actually take it seriously, and you have to check something off, they'll check Obama.

GONYEA: In past elections, unifying the Democratic Party after hard-fought primary campaigns has not always been easy. And yesterday's event shows the Obama campaign is taking the task of wooing Clinton supporters seriously. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Unity, New Hampshire. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.